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When you think of jewelry brands, there are certain names that immediately come to mind. Say, for instance, Cartier or Tiffany & Co., or maybe it’s Bvlgari or Boucheron. But in a world where the unrecognized talents outnumber the already familiar jewelry makers, surely there are more to explore, right? Today, that’s what we’re doing a rundown of—underrated jewelry brands that you should have heard of, but for some reason, just didn’t.
The usual jewelers do not have the monopoly of precious gems. In fact, if you’re in search of something more outside the box and unique, it is a better idea to scour for more brands. Wearing and choosing jewelry is a chance to showcase your personality anyway, so the desire to be more discerning than usual is completely understandable. Beyond the top brands are other makers that may potentially speak to your tastes and wants even better.
So, let’s jump right in, shall we? Below are 24 of the under-the-radar brands that you should know of when you come hunting for the perfect jewelry piece. From the veterans that just didn’t shoot as fast to stardom as their contemporaries to industry newbies, and the minimalist to the maximalist, there’s something here that will make the decision-making teensy-weensy harder but also allow your purchase to appear a little more personalized.
For some kids, the interest in collecting unique-looking rocks is just a hobby that they eventually outgrow. To Kimberly McDonald, it became her way of living. Indeed, since she was young, she liked collecting agates and other rocks, but now, she’s also putting more materials together—agates, raw gems, reclaimed gold and wood—to create uniquely beautiful pieces as a result. McDonald appreciates everything in its natural state, and she isn’t alone; retailers such as Net-a-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman are selling her pieces, and they’ve been seen on the likes of former First Lady Michelle Obama and model Cindy Crawford.
Based in the City of Angels—and of the stars—Anita Ko has turned her passion for jewelry into a business that finds her being of service to celebrities such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Naomi Watts and Rihanna. Her collections appeal to the modern woman, who appreciate the ultra-feminine pieces that come with a sturdy and timely finish. When the eponymous label was founded, Ko exclusively worked with diamonds, but not anymore. Her delicate pieces now also feature emeralds and rubies.
From the West Coast, we now transfer to the East with Jemma Wynne. Don’t be fooled by the name as the company actually is made out of a tag team in designers Stephanie Wynne and Jenny Klatt. They established their company in 2008 after realizing that they have a shared passion in jewelry making. as a result, the brand’s pieces are gorgeous, inspired by New York City where they are headquartered, whilethe collections highlight exquisite and polished accessories that feature geometric shapes while decorated with diamonds, looking completely in touch with the city.
The list so far has featured up and coming jewelers, but here’s a royally-stamped brand that just doesn’t ring a bell as much as the others: Garrard. We wonder how it could be, especially since it is the longest serving jeweler in the world, with 280 years of history to back it up. Beginning with Frederick, Prince of Wales and then Queen Victoria, it has served every monarch since. When Prince William proposed to his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton, it was actually a Garrard piece that he gave, passed onto him by his parents. To this day, Garrard produces an array of jewelry, including brooches and tiaras, and balances tradition and design, resulting in quintessentially British works of art.
Originally trained to become a painter and a sculptor, Ana Khouri’s initial plans were derailed when she realized that she had a penchant for creating jewelry while adorning the life drawing models’ bodies with accessories. After studying in reputable art schools in São Paulo, New York and London, she founded her very own brand in 2002. The human body continues to inspire her, and her pieces are created with the desire to connect the wearer to the jewel. She is known for contemporary creations such as the Libertine Ring made in gold and diamonds, and for her use of ear cuffs, being among the first to adopt the trend.
Roxanne Assoulin has over 30 years of experience as a jeweler, but her creations appear both modern and youthful. Having contributed to labels such as J. Crew, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, she is very much in the know for contemporary swings, leading to pieces that people have great fun in wearing. The designer does not shy away from colors, and it shows in her pieces. But they are also minimalist in design, making them easy to wear and pair with other apparel.
Italian Pomellato is a jewelry brand that allows the past to meet the present, creating memorable pieces that are modern as they are timeless. The brand was founded by Pino Rabolini, who came from a family of goldsmiths, in 1967 at the world’s fashion capital Milan. His creations are best remembered for being colorful and unique, such as his Nudo collection. While it is very much a brand of the present, Pomellato upholds time-tested traditions, employing experts at his atelier to work with metals and precious stones by hand.
The New York-based jeweler Maria Tash’s first plunge into jewelry design was during a class she took with her mother, but it was not until years later that she started her own line of jewels, as well as a piercing spa that is also named after her. Inspired by body piercing as well as designs from the Indian subcontinent, Maria Tash has created earrings and studs spotted on celebrities such as FKA Twigs, Rihanna, Zoe Kravitz, Scarlett Johansson and Charlize Theron. Her work with 18-karat diamonds are not only beautiful and durable, they are also hypoallergenic and comfortable.
Suzanne Kalan’s style is that of the timeless kind; she wants her pieces to be worn today, tomorrow and even twenty years down the road. And that is a remarkable feat that she has achieved, seeing that Kalan likes to experiment, toying with asymmetry and featuring scattered baguette diamonds as well as sliced gemstones. Through her family, she had a strong background in the industry right in the beginning. But she only decided to create her own when a store owner saw accessories she made for herself and made orders immediately.
A museum curator would appreciate the value of a jewelry beauty if she held it at the palm of her hand, but few would expect her to set out and create her own, which is pretty much what designer Emily Satloff did. Naming her company Larkspur & Hawk, Satloff works with a group of artists, craftspeople and designers to create pieces done through the Georgian era’s foil technique. Despite relying on an 18th century technique to finish their pieces, Larkspur & Hawk still appeals to modern tastes, owing to the foil hand-painted with a variety colors and the use of precious gemstones.
When Alison Lou debuted her first collection, the Emoticore, in New York, she had the intention of creating pieces that are both meaningful and smile-inducing. She still largely operates under this vision, which is why she approaches the serious work with precious metals and gems with a sense of humor. Her playful creations have eventually come to include the Mama Mia, inspired by a summer trip to Italy and by one of the country’s best legacies: pasta.
Rhode Island School of Design graduate Wing Yau is the force behind Wwake, founding the company that aims to break the convention and present a new perception when it comes to dealing with heirloom jewelry. The New York-based designer has a selection that prominently features her signature contour shapes, peculiar arrangements, and captivating stones. She also works with the finest of materials but more importantly, conflict-free diamonds.
Now, wait a minute, isn’t Oscar de la Renta a respected and well-known couturier? Sure, sure, he is. His gowns have created much deserved buzz, but the same cannot be said for his selection of jewelry that deserve to be in the spotlight as much as his other creations. Reminiscent of old world glamour is one way of describing the brand’s pieces, but so is feminine and refined. They are loud and proud, and they would amp the beauty of anyone whose body parts they adorn.
It’s easy to forget the process and the people behind the precious jewels once we set their eyes on them, but not for Melissa Joy Manning, who insists on providing competitive benefits to employees and using sustainable materials and techniques in the creation of her fine pieces. Orders are made in either California or New York with recycled 14-karat gold. The green company’s environmental consciousness is not the only thing it has going for it, however. The one of a kind jewels that are must-sees and must-haves are inspired by Manning’s love for travel and the arts.
In a long list of emerging and unique makers, here’s one who dares to break conventions and be irreverent in the face of beauty standards, Pascale Monvoisin. Her pieces are unconventional but beautiful, with irregularity and asymmetry as among their most prominent traits. They are also taken from culture, although it is not confined to a single source as one would suspect. Every stone, may it be turquoise, moonstone, or diamond, is personally selected by Monvoisin and worked into her designs.
Rony Vardi and Leigh Plessner are the duo responsible for Catbird, a jewelry store that has garnered attention from Hollywood cool girls such as Emma Watson, Michelle Williams and Liv Tyler, as well as trendy ladies everywhere else. The handcrafted rings, necklaces and earrings all help wearers create their own look. Even though the flagship store is in Williamsburg, their merchandise made up of stackable rings as well as alphabet studs are available anywhere you may be as they can be shopped online.
Los Angeles-made Jennifer Meyer pieces are embedded with a greater ambition than just being mere decorations alone. Her handcrafted 18-karat pieces adorned with diamonds all come with a story and aim to be extensions of the women who will wear them. Meyer began her self-named company with a love for creating jewelry for friends and family. She wants her pieces to serve the same purpose with which she created personal jewelry, that is, to become symbols of important milestones for her clients.
Loren Stewart is a creation of three women—Rachel Loren, and sisters Satya Stewart and Annah Sterwart-Zafrani—who made their jewelry through upcycling vintage pieces. The designs are simple, delicate and nostalgic. Besides its experimental charm, Loren Stewart collections’ main selling point are their wearability. Their pieces are intended to be mixed and matched, even layered, to create a completely unique and personalized look.
Jewelry design is always a technical process, but no one highlights that more than Melissa Kaye. The former Wall Street employee and overachiever took off from a stable position to try her luck at design, enrolling herself at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Instilled with a love for math since she was young, Kaye is especially interested in natural and geometric patterns, which seeps into her creations. Everything in her work is intentional, right down to the choice of stones and overall construction.
When Delfina Delettrez began her own company in 2007, she and her use of varied materials was something that stood out. She worked beyond precious gems and metals to include organic materials that form into different body parts or insects. Based in Italy, Delfina Delettrez maintains the traditional techniques of jewelry making, with human hands as the primary tools. Despite the insistence with old methods, her jewelry collection is of the times while adding surreal into the pool of descriptions.
Kenneth Jay Lane has made his timeless pieces available to the most respected actresses of Hollywood as well as figures such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Diana, Princess of Wales. While most of them are considered collectibles by now, the goal of the designer to create jewelry that is glamorous and wearable all year round persists. Started in 1963, Kenneth Jay Lane put into display designs that are rich in crystals, all the while keeping them elegant and luxurious.
Mizuki is a jewelry brand where the East meets the West, as its founder, Mizuki Goltz, is a product of both her Japanese heritage and American upbringing. She is an award-winning designer, having won many accolades such as the Town and Country’s 2017 Pearls of The Year award and the Pearl Design award at the Couture show in Las Vegas. Her gold pieces, which are decorated with freshwater or Tahitian pearls, are mainstays in her collection. They have been widely covered in the media, but her brand and its pieces are still treasures waiting to be discovered by more people.
Of Rare Origin is a mother-daughter project, started by Leslie Tcheyan and her two daughters Thea and Octavia in 2016. They are known best for their “wearable poetry” selection that began with the very first—the Aviary collection. The pieces are romantic, bold and playful, incorporating precious materials and classic techniques in their creation. Together, the three has more than enough experience in jewelry design as well the arts, working together in the crafting of the pieces as well as in the company’s marketing strategies.
The Brazilian jewelry designer always had an affinity for the arts, but it was her time at London’s Central Saint Martin that cemented the path towards her creating precious jewelry. Paola Vilas’ works are distinguished not only for being daring and bold but also for its references to classical art and the 1920s. Featuring mixed media, these are all created by hand inside the brand’s Brazilian ateliers. Her creations are available in silver, gold and vermeil.
Checking out each designer and their iconic work is not an easy task to accomplish and can be overwhelming, especially to a newbie. But to those with discerning eyes, we can prove our point that beautiful pieces are not are confined within the familiar brands; memorable and comely pieces can be found elsewhere if you only knew where to look. Most of the brands in the list have their fair share of celebrity admirers but for some reason, just haven’t hit the jackpot yet when it comes to name recall. Now is an opportune time, more than ever, to gift yourself with the creations from any of these brands that can help you assert your individuality, relying on pure gut feeling as to which pieces feel right, rather than just brand familiarity alone.